Psychology and the Law 4/15/2012
Chapter 3 – Theories of Crime: Learning and Environmental.
Why people become involved in Criminal activity?
A. Psychodynamic: Humans are thought to be inherently antisocial, driven by pleasure seeking
and destructive impulses.
o According to this perspective crime occurs when these impulses are not controlled.
This is usually a result of forces failing regulate these impulses.
Example of psychoanalyst explanation:
Having examined hundred of people who have killed… I have found that homicide usually does not
originate because of a clearly defined impulse to kill, but is released by the intensity of internal
When as children we feel hurt by people’s rejection or criticism we either give vent to it or push away
from our mind our real resentment until we “forget” about them. They become unconscious. When
we continue to repress and it becomes a pattern of behavior, without finding any outward expression
or release, these hateful emotions accumulate within us. If we are unable to curb these hostile
feelings, our ego-protecting defenses crumble and murderous acting-out impulses emerge.
- where pleasure-seeking and destructive impulses originate
- Part of an individual’s personality that is present at birth and represents unconscious primitive
and instinctual desires.
- Is governed by the pleasure principle
- Seeks immediate pleasure with little consideration of the undesirable consequences that may
result in an impulse is acted upon
o This is controlled for in one of two ways:
1) Psychoanalysts believe that the activity of the id is opposed by the next
personality structure to develop, the ego:
- Which attempts to mediate between one’s primal needs and society’s demands
- The ego is directed by the:
- Its development coincides with the mergence of reality-oriented thinking and it allows the id
to function in socially acceptable ways by suppressing the id’s impulses until appropriate
2) Second, in challenging id drives, the ego is guided by the:
- The last of the three personality systems to develop according to psychoanalystsPsychology and the Law 4/15/2012
- Represents the internalization of group standards, typically conveyed to the child through
parental care and discipline.
- It acts as a moral regulator
- Thought to consist of two subsystems :
a. Conscience: allows an individual to distinguish between right and wrong and
forces the ego to inhibit id pursuits that are out of line with one’s morals and
b. The ego-ideal which represents the socially accepted standards to which we all
Table 3.1 – Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development
Oral - Begins at birth and end around age 1- 1.5.
- Child is preoccupied with seeking gratification though
sucking and feeding.
Anal - Begins around age 1 ( with the introduction of toilet
training) to age two or three
- Primary conflict: one of control, as the child has to learn
to delay the pleasure associated with bodily expulsion.
Phallic - Begins around age two or three and lasts until age five to
- Primary conflict: sexual.
- At this stage, the child becomes interested in their
genitals and begins to develop an unconscious desire for the
opposite sex parent and fear of retribution from the same –sex
This conflict is called Oedipus complex in
In girls it is called : Electra complex
Latent - Begins around five to six and lasts until puberty.
- A time where the sexual drive becomes de-emphasized
and repressed sexual energy gets redirected to asexual
pursuits such as same-sex friendships.
Genital - Begins in adolescence and lasts until adulthood.
- Interest in the genitals is reborn and the individual
focuses on a search for intimacy with an opposite-sex
Sources of criminal behavior – relating to inadequate superego formation:
1. The individual who commits crime as a result of harsh superego is referred to as a neurotic
criminal.Psychology and the Law 4/15/2012
- This is assumed to lead to pathological levels of unconscious guilt that can be
resolved by receiving punishment.
2. Individuals who commit crime because of a weak superego are commonly associated with the
3. Criminal commits crime as a result of a deviant superego. For these individuals, superego
standards have developed but those standards are thought to reflect deviant identification.
- This could occur, for example when CRIMINAL parents have a good relationship
with their son, and the son grows up to mirror the criminality of his parents.
o In this case, the child’s delinquent behavior reflects an absence of guilt but
not the absence of abnormal psychic structures.
*****Possessing a superego that fails to sufficiently regulate the primitive and instinctual needs of
the id, this type of individual is typically “egocentric, impulsive, guiltless and unempathic”.
Psychodynamic theories of crime:
A. Bowlby’s Theory of Maternal Deprivation:
- Bowlby’s view was that young children require consistent and continuous maternal
care in order for them to develop normally.
- According to Bowlby, disruption to the mother-child relationship will have many
harmful and potentially irreversible long-term effects especially in relation to the
child’s ability to establish meaningful prosocial relationships.
o Lacking such abilities the child will not develop the means to control his
conduct and will be more likely to exhibit antisocial patterns of behavior.
B. Hirschi’s Control theories:
- Took on the approach of why more people don’t violate the law than those who
o According to his original social control theory (social bond theory) the
reason for this is because of social controls or the bond of the individual to
- He presented four interrelated types of social bonds that are collectively thought to
promote socialization and conformity:
a. Attachment – refers to attachment and interest in others, most importantly
parents, friends and teachers.
** One does not commit crime, Hirschi suggests, because he/she does not wish to jeopardize these
b. Commitment – refers to the time, energy and ef